Exactly one year ago, I was beyond excited to start leading a small group of kindergarteners. I had it all planned out…

I was ready to inspire the kids to engage in God’s bigger story.
I planned on breaking out my best moves during worship.
I was prepared to partner with the parents throughout the week.

I was ready. I had mentally prepared for this. I was a high school SGL for 4 years prior. What could be so hard?

Then my first Sunday hit and… the tears started.

“Oh, don’t cry. You’ll be okay.”

The pleas for snack time came.

“Uh, snacks? I don’t have any snacks. Do you usually get snack? Are you hungry? Can you wait till your parents come?”

The inability to use scissors was real.

“Don’t cry. I’ll help you. Don’t cry. Please. Please stop crying. It’s okay. Please stop crying.”

The separation anxiety set in.

“You just got here. Mom and dad? But I’m here. They’ll be back. It won’t be much longer. Please don’t cry.” 

My first Sunday was over and I was exhausted. Honestly, by the end of the hour, I also wanted my mom.

While I immediately felt like this Sunday was a clear crash-and-burn story after looking back I learned a few things. Here’s what I figured out while starting with a new group of elementary-aged kids:

Manage your expectations. I tend to create high (and sometimes unattainable) expectations unknowingly. My first Sunday was clear evidence of that. However, moving forward I was able to have clear and age-appropriate expectations for these kids now that I had an idea of their abilities.

Move on from your fail. The first day felt like a total failure for me. I was shocked by how crazy things got that day. But I changed the way I communicated with any new kids. I gave them clear expectation for the hour and an outline for how the morning would go.

Meet them where they are. Let’s be honest. I could have easily jumped ship and swam back over to the older kids I was used to (and believe me–I was tempted). But I would be missing out on what makes this phase for kids so great. So, I decided to celebrate the process of learning and new accomplishments. Having an activity where scissors were required became less of an issue and praises for successfully cutting out a box and not cutting your finger was cheered on more than ever. Now, we’re fighting through the growing pains of my few realizing that maybe not every story they have to tell is unique to them. That his or her pleas for “look at me” might be met with “hold on someone else is sharing a story.”

Move them to what is next. I realized that I needed to help move them to what was next. They needed to see that what was next wasn’t scary. They needed to see that I could be trusted to help them take on the challenges of what is next. Because, let’s face it, learning new things every day can be overwhelming for 5 year olds. In fact, it can be overwhelming for a 25 year old!

In the days, months, and years to come, I look forward to being there to inspire the kids to engage in God’s bigger story, or ask deep questions, and to create relationships with parents. For now though, I’m still going to celebrate with the kid who just cut his own activity page out.

How was the beginning with your few? What are some ways you’ve moved them to what was next?

By Molly Boylan

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Molly Boylan

Molly is on staff at Orange as the lead editor for 252 Basics. Since middle school she has been serving in some capacity as a small group leader, but now spends her time with an awesome crew of first-graders. Outside of being an SGL, Molly can usually be found exploring Atlanta with her people or going for long walks with her dog, Dawson. But, most of the time, she’s thinking about how she can incorporate glitter, sequins, or confetti into her day.

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